The making of a small camp knife

knife billet

The damascus billet

I was cleaning up some corners of my shop the other day and came upon a lump of metal. I had started making a damascus (pattern-welded) billet a few years ago and must have become distracted. I had two reasons to re-visit the project; one was to make a gift for someone and the other was to work on my resolution to finish more projects that I have started. It only took a few more heats to double the billet back onto itself a few times and achieve my goal of about forty layers.

A few more heats and some grinding left me with something that is starting to look like a knife.

grinding blade

First stage of grinding

Notice the two lines marked on the ricasso area. This will be the transition area into the sharpened edge. It is marked the same way on the other side.

After some filing to establish a soft transition, I am able to grind back to the line I have filed.

More grinding.


knife in progress

This is about the extent of the aggressive grinding.

Grinding the sides of a knife

view of knife edge Notice that the choil is taped. The real pros probably don’t do this step, but I have found that it really helps to prevent any mistakes. Also notice that the edge is still pretty thick. This will help prevent warping during the heat treatment. It also allows me to remove the decarburized material and still have something left.

The black mark on the tang tells me where I want to cut this off. After holding this in my hand, I realized that the tang I forged was too long for my desired proportions.

After a few hours of grinding, filing and more refined sanding, the knife is now ready for hardening. Everything looks good. No deep scratches, no sign of inclusions trapped between any of the layers. It is sanded to about 220 grit. I wanted some “tooth” on the surface for the clay resist I intend to put along the back of the knife.

A knife blank ready for hardening

Ready to be hardened

Next post: Heat-treating and finishing


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